Part Three of A Life on Our Planet by David Attenborough, is titled “A Vision for the Future: How to Rewild the World.”
I focus this month on Attenborough’s chapter in Part Three called “Taking Up Less Space.”
Attenborough explains that “the conversion of wild habitat to farmland as humankind expanded its territory has been the single greatest cause of biodiversity loss during our time on earth.” He states that we must cease the expansion of our industrial farmland.
One of the ways we can cease this expansion of industrial farmland is to eat less meat, specifically red meat. “Today, the average person in the United States eats over 120kg of meat each year. People in European countries eat between 60kg and 80kg each year. The average Kenyan eats 16kg per year.” The average person in India eats less than 4kg per year.
Beef production is the most destructive form of industrial farmland expansion. Beef makes up about a quarter of the meat we eat and only 2 percent of our calories, yet 60 percent of our farmland is dedicated to raising beef.
Attenborough states the universal opinion is that we need to change to a largely plant-based diet. This change would not only help our planet, it would improve our health. Deaths from heart disease, obesity, and some cancers could drop by up to 20 percent and save a trillion dollars in healthcare worldwide by 2050.
One of the earliest proponents of this change in eating habits is Frances Moore Lappé who published Diet for a Small Planet fifty years ago. A fiftieth anniversary edition of her book has just been published which includes 120 pages of planet-friendly recipes. Lappé’s daughter, Anne Lappé, published Diet for a Hot Planet, in 2010.
I recently purchased both books. My goal is to read them this year as I switch to a plant-based diet. I’m hoping to find many recipes that my great-nephew and great-niece will enjoy since this is the future we need to embrace for them, for all the children in our lives, and for all the children on our small planet.
Attenborough concludes his chapter, “Taking Up Less Space,” with this statement: “Estimates suggest it could be possible for humankind to feed itself on just half of the land we currently farm – an area the size of North America.”
Who We Can Be
We can be optimistic if we become people who shift to a plant-based diet remembering the perspective I shared last month.
It is true that the cost of action today is high!
And the cost of inaction today is even higher for those we love!